When you hear the best drummers, you would probably think that is someone who took many years of training. Well, in part, that is true.
For Jim Keltner, it was more than just practice. The drummer had a nose for excellent music and was talented in capturing the best scenes. As such, he is one of the most respected session drummers in history.
His signature features at the foundation of thousands of records, and with many other major figures. Talk about John Lennon’s “Imagine,” or Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” and you will understand what kind of a drummer Jim was.
He is the force behind much of George Harrison’s solo output that has been rocking the industries. As if that is not enough, his part in both Traveling Wilburys LPs, Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever,” Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and Steely Dan’s “Josie,” was instrumental in taking these pieces to great heights. And these are only a few among many other musicians he had worked with.
It may seem like Jim has a hand in the growth of almost every major musician. It therefore not a question of who has worked with him, but who hasn’t. His work with Harry Nilsson, the Bees Gees, Pink Floyd, Randy Newman, Carly Simon, Joni Michell, the Pretender, and many other figures can never go unnoticed. His work mostly involved in creating new ideas and injecting them in every aspect of his performance.
Jim was born in Oklahoma, but he grew up in Pasadena, California. It was not until the sixties that he focused on doing serious sessions. His career picked up faster than any other drummer, exposing him to almost every pop and rock start.
He was not a man who took any work lightly, which earned him an excellent reputation and respect among those he worked with.
Jim was recognized for many talents. First, he had a reliable and trustworthy backing that left everyone around him comfortable. Also, he was gifted with an easy-going feel that he impacted not only on the drums but on his team as well.
This helped him work in perfect harmony with others, helping them feel they made the right decision choosing him. He was also a friendly person, approaching everyone with the same respect that was accorded to him. But the most important characteristic was his jazz-schooled subtlety and versatility. He had so much drumming knowledge that he did not need to learn any song for many hours.
“Jim reacts to everything happening in the music,” said Leon Russell, who had worked with him for several years. One of the statements that impressed Russell was “I have a lot of people who’d say to me, you don’t look like you are playing when you are playing.”
That is one thing that made Jim stand out from any other drummer. He never used to use too much energy, yet the sounds were always on point. His main idea was in the “different ways to play drums, just like a guitar,” which helped him investment new approaches every time he held drumsticks.